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JWT Global CEO Joked About Raping Employees and Made Racist Comments, Lawsuit Claims

Gustavo Martinez denies allegations in agency PR chief's discrimination suit

Martinez was promoted to global chairman and CEO in 2015. Image courtesy of WPP.

The global communications officer for WPP agency J. Walter Thompson has filed a discrimination suit claiming that CEO Gustavo Martinez made a series of jokes about raping female colleagues and mocking minorities.

As reported in The New York Post this morning, JWT's longtime chief communications officer Erin Johnson claims that Martinez compared African-American employees to monkeys, complained about "fucking Jews," and told Johnson in front of coworkers, "Come here, so I can rape you in the bathroom," grabbing her by the neck and laughing. Later that day, he reportedly interrupted a company meeting to ask which female employees could be raped.

UPDATE: WPP responded to the lawsuit in a statement provided to Adweek Thursday afternoon. In it, Martinez denied the charges. "I am aware of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in New York Federal Court," he said. "I want to assure our clients and my colleagues that there is absolutely no truth to these outlandish allegations, and I am confident that this will be proven in court."

Filed in New York, the lawsuit by Johnson alleges that Martinez joked about having sex with her on multiple occasions and that he suggested a female agency executive should be "raped into submission."

He also allegedly made multiple racist comments about black people and Jews, telling employees on a lunch break that he didn't like living in New York's Westchester County because it has "too many Jews" and that he would avoid "black monkeys" when going through airport security on business trips.

The suit also claims that when Johnson reported Martinez's behavior to executives at JWT and WPP, he responded by slashing her bonuses and excluding her from office meetings.

Argentina native Martinez joined the WPP organization in 2014 as global president of the JWT network after serving as president of the European and Asian wings of IPG's McCann Worldgroup. He was promoted to the global chairman, CEO role in January 2015.

Johnson joined JWT as director of corporate communications in New York in 2005 and was promoted to the global role in 2008.

This story is developing, and we will update as more details and responses become available.

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